Saturday, 8 October 2011

Something Fishy

Have you ever wondered why Christians adopted a fish as their first ever brand logo? Reasons abound on the interweb, and I have no reason to disagree with them, but I wonder if it also goes beyond the pragmatic (avoiding persecution) and the practical (using his disciples' own jobs as a convenient illustration on how to do evangelism) to something that expresses the deep, broad sweep of God's actions in history - his plan of salvation. Let me explain...

Back in the Old Testament, the people of God, starting with the patriarchs, were shepherds looking after sheep, cattle and goats etc. (Gen.45:10). This was "convenient" as they needed a bundle of them for use in the sacrificial system that God's covenant would require at that point in history.

Moreover, shepherding was an activity that was done on dry land. Back in Genesis 1 on the third day, God raised the land up out of the turbulent waters of the great deep and set it above them. In the Bible, being on land is a picture of being in Christ - the solid rock; being in water is a picture of being under judgement. Salvation is being taken from the turbulent waters and placed on the dry land. (Ps. 40:2, 66:6, 69:1ff etc). It's not a metaphor that's hard to understand, how long can you do life treading water or fleeing Jaws?

But it's more specific than that - the turbulent sea is likened in the Bible to the enemies of God and his people (Is.57:20, Jude.1:13). In the Old Testament, this was the Gentile nations. In the New Testament, it's those who refuse to welcome the Lordship of Christ and who, under the authority of the great serpent (Rev.13:1), want to devour the people of God completely. Waves lapping at the shore - trying to "devour" the land - is a picture of how the enemies of God try, unsuccessfully, to destroy the testimony of his Christ and consume his people.

So come to the New Testament, the fulfillment of the covenant in Christ and the great commission (Matt.28:19-20) and a new "job" is given to the disciples - that of fishing (Matt.4:19, Mk.1:17). Plucking fish out of the water is a picture of loving your enemies and plucking their souls out of darkness.

Just as fishermen are carried in a boat (like an ark) propelled by the wind across the sea to bring back a harvest from the deep. So too God's people, commissioned and carried by Christ in the power of the Spirit, move out across the face of the earth to bring people out of the dark waters of judgement and death up into the bright, firm, secure and life giving love of God in Christ.

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